Though emojis are becoming an increasingly integral part of our text vocabulary, I feel cheated whenever they take up a correspondingly significant portion of an art show. At the Affordable Art Fair in Chelsea, where prices ranged from $100 to $10,000 a piece, emojis winked at attendees from around every corner, dangling in the form of beads on clear strings (by Natasja Van Der Meer) and hanging as shiny, metallic fixtures from the walls.
The emoji prevalence marked one of the biggest differences between this year’s Affordable Art Fair and those of three to four years ago. Emojis hadn’t so dramatically entered the vernacular then, and so instead we were left with the classic images of pop art, like corporate logos covered in Jackson Pollack splotches (but more neon) and a sexy nun hologram that goes from sexy and chaste to sexy and wearing lingerie depending on your angle.
The warped corporate logos were still at the fair this year, indeed covered in neon. Some of the most mesmerizing logos, to my surprise, were laid out in grid-like formation on bright white backgrounds, covered in mostly gold gummy bear-sized and –shaped sculptures (artist: Stéphane Gautier). In his “Happy colors,” gummy bears correspond 1:1 to logos and other recognizable images. For instance, a neon pink bear half covers a small picture of Hello Kitty, while a silver bear perches askew atop the Eiffel Tower. I was mesmerized, mostly, because I did not understand, plus there were lots of logos to mentally sift through.
Also like years past, the affordable art glittered, gleamed, and screamed. Does affordable art glitter more than other art? As a fan of crystals and rhinestones when used appropriately (and sometimes when used very inappropriately), I was drawn to this art, but I could also understand why a friend of mine who attended the fair mocked “all the bedazzlers of New York coming out of the woodwork for this show.” Still, three crystal popsicles by Daniel Jacob sitting atop marble cubes, one with a fleck of icy, crystal drip on the top of its cube, stood out as affordable art I would like in my home. Unfortunately, at $8,500 a pop (literally), I could not afford them.
Animals, too, appeared across various galleries’ wares, some dreaming (see Jenny Keith’s “Bear’s Dream,” “Zebra’s Dream,” and “Dog’s Dream,” acrylic on board, $2,700-$2,800) and others mounted to the wall as if taxidermied but actually made out of assorted fabrics (by Anne-Valerie Dupond). Tiny, colorful “Piggies,” by Seunghwui Koo, crowded a canvas on the upper floor, while two crystal zebras in a black frame nuzzled downstairs. You could almost here them making soft zebra sounds.
Overall, the Affordable Art Fair will please those who enjoy the loud and the sparkling, the bold and pop-y. And for those who enjoy a treasure hunt, finding the more subdued pieces between the brazen will prove a delightful challenge.
Since the selection remains similar from one year to the next (and to be fair, how dramatically can—and should—an artist change their style in the span of one year?), this snapshot of the fair will likely predict well for next year’s New York showcase of under $10,000 art.
For a list of upcoming fairs, from Singapore to London to Hong Kong, check out their official site.